December 2 is National Special Education Day

Dec 2, 2022 | Special Education, Special Needs, Special Needs Child

December 2 is National Special Education Day

In the United States, we celebrate the anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was signed into law on December 2, 1975 in its original version, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, or EHA.


What is special education?


Special education is an individualized form of education designed to meet the unique needs of each eligible student. The definition of special education in the IDEA includes the following:

It must be:

  • Specially designed.
  • Provided at no cost to the parents.
  • Can include
    • Instruction in a classroom, at home, in a hospital or an institution, or in other settings.
    • Instruction in physical education.
    • Speech-language pathology services.
    • Other related services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and behavior modification.
    • Travel training.
    • Vocational education.

20 USC 1414 Sec 300.39

The purpose of IDEA is to:

  • Provide special education and related services to meet each student’s unique needs.
  • Protect students’ and parental rights.
  • Assist schools, states, and educational agencies to provide for education of students with disabilities.
  • Assure the effectiveness of special education.
  • Ensure students have opportunity for post-secondary education, employment, and independence.

Who can get special education?


Students must meet three criteria to become eligible for special education and related services under IDEA:

  • They must have at least one disability.
  • That disability must adversely affect the student’s educational performance.
  • The student’s needs must be such that they cannot be met through general education alone.

Where is special education provided under IDEA?


Schools in the United States provide special education and related services to students who are found eligible.

When is special education provided?


The age range for eligibility starts from the age of three through the end of the year in which the student turns 21 in all of the United States except for Massachusetts. Massachusetts allows a potential extra year.

Why is special education important?

Unlike some other countries, the United States educates all of its citizens. That ambitious goal requires education to be designed for students who learn differently.

For example, consider the following statistics:

“In 2020–21, the number of students ages 3–21 who received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was 7.2 million, or 15 percent of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, the most common category of disability was specific learning disabilities (33 percent).” ~ National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).


Without special education, many capable children would go uneducated. Without an education, their futures would be dim, and their capacity for employment, advancement, and independence greatly diminished.

    • In Africa, less than 10% of children with disabilities attend school.
    • In Afghanistan, only 25% of children with disabilities go to school.
    • In Bangladesh, 70% of students with disabilities do not even complete primary school.
    • Prior to the passage of EHA/IDEA, only 20% of children with disabilities attended school. That is only one student out of every five.
    • Children who were hearing impaired, visually impaired, emotionally disturbed, or intellectually disabled were excluded by law from attending school in many states.


Since implementing IDEA and its predecessor in 1975, the United States has flipped its treatment of students with disabilities. We have gone from a nation of excluding 1.8 million children to educating more than 7.5 million children during the 2020-2021 school year.

During that same school year, more than 66% of our students with disabilities attended general education classes for a large majority of their school day.


As a nation, we have also:

    • √ Educated more children with special needs in their home schools, the schools in their own neighborhoods which they would attend if they were not classified.
    • √ Increased the rate of high school graduation.
    • √ Increased the percentage of students who go on to post-secondary employment and study.

That is why we celebrate Special Education Day!

But we still need to do better.

Special education is chronically underfunded. The United States federal government agreed to provide virtually 40% of the excess cost of special education over general education. The reality, however, is that it contributes only about 15% of that amount.

This creates a situation in which school districts sometimes make decisions based on the cost even though that is contrary to IDEA’s requirements. If you are having issues with your child’s education, ask an experienced education law attorney. We’re here to help you and your child.609-409-3500


Contact us now

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